A Modern Woman's Perspective On The Kingdom of God on Earth

Showing posts with label Five-Fold Ministry. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Five-Fold Ministry. Show all posts

July 27, 2018

Is The Five-Fold Ministry For Everyone?

     I know that I am treading on treacherous ground here, but I'm also going to tell you that this is a question I have been struggling with for quite awhile now. And I've been hesitant to write about my concerns until I had studied the Word and prayed about it, because in today's Christian culture, I am pretty sure I am going to offend some people and that is definitely not my intention. I will also preface this post with the statement that I do not declare my opinion to be right, and those who do not agree with me to be wrong. There is no condemnation in my thoughts, just the desire to develop an understanding according to God's Word. So, let's just dive into the discussion...
     Perhaps God has placed Mark and I on these 2.97 acres in the middle of nowhere so that He could train us up while we were not distracted by what is going on in the world -- both in the secular and religious worlds. He has pulled us out of the Church building and established a growing ministry that is centered on Jesus's commission to His disciples to spread the Gospel of the Kingdom. For us, that has included physical healing, inner healing, deliverance from spiritual torment, evangelizing, teaching, and simply being obedient towards every opportunity to share the love of God through Jesus. In many ways, it began as a narrow calling, but as we trusted God more and He saw the fruit being produced, our assignments have expanded, along with our territory. And I would say we have been blessed with a growing community of Believers who are each walking in their own calling and obedience.
     But that is also where I have some growing concerns; both in what I see on the large stage of the Christian experience and closer to home. Perhaps we have been secluded enough that we were not aware of this "movement", if I may call it that. But as our mission field and interaction with the Body of Christ has grown beyond our immediate community, I am seeing a profusion of Christians referring to themselves with one of the titles of the five-fold ministry mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. The modern Church refers to these ministries as "offices" within the Body of Christ, and maintains their importance in building up the Body of Christ in unity and maturity. On that we can agree!
     And so that we know what the Bible says, here are the verses that are the foundation of the Five-fold Ministry: "And He [Jesus] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds [pastors], and teachers, to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes. Rather, speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into Him who is the head, into Christ, from whom the whole body, joined and held together by every joint with which it is equipped, when each part is working properly, makes the body grow so that it builds itself up in love" (Ephesians 4:11-16, English Standard Version). 
     Here is my concern... I have become increasingly aware of a Christian belief system that implies that each and every Christian is to walk in one of these "titles"; that each and every Christian has been called to be either an apostle, a prophet, an evangelist, a pastor, or a teacher. But that is not what I see Scripture saying! In fact, if you read various translations, I believe you will get a more accurate sense of what the Word is saying ... The New Living Translation says these offices were the gifts Jesus gave to the Church. The Amplified Versions says His gifts were varied and Jesus, Himself, appointed some as apostles, some as prophets, some as evangelists, some as pastors, and some as teachers. The Passion Translation takes it a step further and says Jesus appointed some with grace to these offices.
     And the purpose of these appointments or callings? To equip the saints for the work of ministry; to build up the body of Christ in unity of faith, in knowledge of Jesus, to spiritual maturity so that we might grow into the very image of Christ, which is love. 
     Nowhere do I discern in that passage that each and every Christian is to walk in one of those offices or carry one of those titles. Yet there are websites that proclaim that "within each of the saints, we find the various manifestations of the Apostle, Prophet, Evangelist, Pastor, and Teacher within the Body of Christ. Each person is given a gift, a role, and a part of the Body to continue the work of Christ". That certainly appears to me to be stretching the truth of the Word. And these websites even offer tests to find out which office you are! And there are websites that will actually confer a certificate that you can hang on your wall to validate your "office".
     I am in no way disputing that these offices have been assigned by Christ to build up the Body of Christ [and for the reasons I have stated above]. The Five-fold Ministry is absolutely validated by Scripture. But these are assignments given by Christ to SOME [with grace/favor]. Simply put, there must be men and women whom Christ trusts with the important calling/commission to equip the saints (who are believers sanctified -- or set apart -- unto God) to grow into a unified Body that imitates Him. These verses make it very clear that these five callings are to equip the saints -- perfecting them, preparing them to walk in the fullness of Christ's image on earth. So, it's obvious [to me, at least] that not everyone can be called to one of these offices.... because there would be no saints left to equip!
     And I do not think that we should dismiss the part that bearing fruit for the Kingdom plays in the execution of these offices. Fruit should be evident in the life of one who calls himself an Apostle or Prophet or Evangelist or Pastor or Teacher. We all know people in the faith who walk at high levels of obedience. We see the fruit in their lives; the unselfish commitment to the Kingdom of God in all that they do. I think it is safe to say that their fruit is the real certification of whether they deserve a title within the Five-fold Ministry. 
     I believe it is very important to understand that although we may not all receive the gift of a commission from Christ to walk in one of these offices, it does not mean that we cannot commit to do the work as we grow in our spiritual maturity into the fullness of Christ. Put another way, Christ may not have called me to be an Apostle, but I can take the message of the Kingdom of God to people in need of it. I may not walk in the office of Prophet, but I can prophesy of God's heart to those who are hurting. I may not be commissioned by Christ to be an Evangelist, but I can be a carrier of God's goodness and love to the unsaved. I may not carry the title of Pastor, but I can bring healing and restoration to the souls and spirits of the broken-hearted through my deliverance ministry. And I may not have been assigned the role of Teacher, but I can share God's Truth and show how it applies to a person's life.
     In other words, we can all be ambassadors for Christ; we can all prophesy; we can all evangelize; we can all pastor, and we can all teach. We don't need official titles, or certificates, or tests to determine our roles. We are all meant to grow into the image of Christ. And, yes, there are those who will receive unique assignments to lead and equip us saints to minister as they do. But let's not get caught up in the need of a title to validate our position in Christ or give us permission to do the work we've all been called to do. We are each valuable in the Kingdom of God!

2 Corinthians 4:5    For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake. 

May 7, 2018

Understanding The Five-Fold Ministry

     I want to ask you to forgive me as I make use of this blog to try to determine a true Scriptural understanding of what, in modern church language, has become known as "the five-fold ministry". Mind you, I am not disputing its existence, or importance, I simply want to give it a proper significance, as defined by God in His Word, and not rely on how it is defined by the modern Church.
     The reason I am seeking this understanding is because I am seeing a lot of people in the Body of Christ being wounded by its application and by the theological philosophy, if you will, that surrounds it. In this day of technological advancement, it is far too easy to make someone "a superstar", and I see too many headlines on Christian websites proclaiming this man [or woman] an Apostle or Prophet -- and it is difficult to discern if it is warranted. At the same time I have witnessed, even in small churches, that there are those who take their position in the church to mean they are exalted above others. I'm just trying to understand what the Word of God says about it all.
    So, let's start with the Scripture that is at the center of my ruminations. In its most simple translation, Ephesians 4:11 says, And He [Jesus] gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherds and teachers. I believe we can all agree that this is in reference to ways Christ intended for those who would believe and serve Him to be trained in continuing His work. Indeed, the very next verse says, And their calling is to nurture and prepare all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry, and as they do this they will enlarge and build up the body of Christ.
     This is how Christ intended for His Kingdom Message to be shared, encouraged, and practiced throughout the earth. In fact, the word "apostle", in the Greek means, literally, "one sent forth", or "the sent ones". In Mark 3:14-15, the Passion Translation tells us Jesus's motivation for naming apostles: He appointed the Twelve, whom he named apostles. He wanted them to be continually at His side as His friends, and so that He could send them out to preach and have authority to heal the sick and to cast out demons. Doesn't that describe all of us? Doesn't Jesus call us all to be His friends? To "go out" preaching [in love] the truth of God's Word? To use our authority and His power to heal and deliver? 
     Furthermore, Acts 4:13 tells us that the religious leaders of Jesus's day "were astonished as they witnessed the bold courage of Peter and John, especially when they discovered that they were just ordinary men who never had religious training". In other words, here were apostles who were ordinary men, but commissioned ["sent ones"] by Jesus to preach, heal, and deliver with authority. Yet, what I see today is that the Church has created this mystique about apostleship; reserving it for those who have been specially "anointed". Could it be that this is just a by-product of our celebrity culture? 
     Think about it ... even Paul battled against being recognized as an apostle, to the point that he says in 2 Corinthians 12:11, For there is nothing I lack compared to these “super-apostles” of yours, even though I am nothing.  Have we created "super apostles" in our day, too? Aren't true apostles defined as servants to the Body? Isn't their role to empower everyone to do the ministry of Christ as He has called them? Go back and take another look at the role of the five-fold ministry mentioned in Ephesians 4:11. It clearly says each of those servants is to "nurture and prepare all the holy believers to do their own works of ministry". 
     Now couple this with Jesus's statement in John 14:12 that The person who follows Me in faith, believing in Me, will do the same mighty miracles that I do—even greater miracles than these because I go to be with My Father.  This implies to me that we are all to be apostles -- sent out to do mighty miracles that attest to God's presence and authority in our lives.  Whether that is laying on of hands to heal sickness, or co-partnering with Jesus and the Holy Spirit to be set free from spirits of anger, depression, unworthiness, etc. --- it all points to Christ and to the building up of the Body of Christ in truth and spirit! And even if we recognize the position of apostle, most of the denominations deny the obvious fruit of that calling -- the authority to heal the sick and cast out demons [the mighty miracles that Jesus did]!
     I have spent far too much time on the ministry of the apostle. But the same goes for the ministry of the prophet. Whether in the Old or New Testament, prophets were, in essence, God's voice to men on earth. 1 Corinthians 14:3 says, when someone prophesies, he speaks to encourage people, to build them up, and to bring them comfort.  Again, in our celebrity culture, a Prophet [with a capital "P"] has come to represent someone who predicts the future. But the Bible tells us it is a gift of grace from God to encourage and edify [instruct, train, guide; enlighten, develop, improve, better] the Body of Christ and help them to mature spiritually. 
     Aren't we all to do that as we grow and mature in our own spiritual lives? Or, is this grace, or favor, of God to be reserved for a specially "anointed" few? For me, it comes down to this question... Are we following the spirit of the Word of God, or are we submitting to the Nicolaitan model of Church government? In case, you are unfamiliar with that term, it refers to a system within the Church when religious leaders rule over others. It is a system run by evangelists, elders, bishops, popes, rabbis, priests and modern day prophets that have forced its people (members) to submit to their dominion (rulership)”. The members have to do what they tell you to do. That is, they have dominion over your faith. They tell you what you need to believe, what instructions to follow, and if you dare step outside those boundaries, you are chastised or rebuked. But where [in that system] is the freedom that the Bible promises? The Word says, Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom (2 Corinthians 3:17)When speaking to the Churches in the Book of Revelation, Jesus makes His opinion very clear: So you also have those who adhere to the teaching of the Nicolaitans, which I hate (Revelation 2:15).
     So, as you can tell, I am working out my salvation with fear and trembling, deeply committed to rightly discerning the Word of God on this matter. I absolutely recognize that Jesus wants apostles, prophets, evangelists, shepherds and teachers actively involved in His Body on earth. But are we defining those roles properly? Are we restricting them to specific people who are exalted above the remainder of the Body? At the same time, if we are all called to these roles in advancing God's Kingdom on earth, are you or I taking those appointments seriously, and seeking the Holy Spirit's counsel as we speak God's Word? Paul tells us in 1 Corinthians 12 that there should be no competition for Importance within the Body -- we all have our roles to play, and God delights in us when we fulfill the role He has designed for us. We should serve Him with joy in every activity or ministry that we engage in for the sake of His Body.
     Thank you for listening to me as I try to hear God teach me what He would have this Age know and understand about ministering to the Body of Christ -- and to the world. I am still developing my theology on this important Scriptural component. My spirit is not content with what the world tells me, and I am struggling with what the Church is showing me. May God, my Father, enlighten my spirit, heart, and mind as I seek to serve Him in His Truth and Spirit. And may each of us be dedicated to nurturing and preparing the Body to do His ministry.

2 Timothy 2:15    Always be eager to present yourself before God as a perfect and mature minister, without shame, as one who correctly explains the Word of Truth.